With its acquisition of AllBusiness.com, D&B becomes a magnet for intent-driven users everywhere
Remember Web browsing? It seems like a very long time ago, but in the Web’s distant past (say, before the launch of the AltaVista search engine in December 1995), you looked for information on the Web by navigating. You looked over lists of links, clicked on one that looked likely, scanned the information, and clicked again if it wasn’t what you needed. You could spend hours following links until you forgot what you had been looking for.
By 2004, almost every Internet user had learned to search, according to a report by comScore and the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Search had become the second most popular activity online, following e-mail.
Today, any piece of information you want is just a couple of clicks away. You still use a browser to access it, but you probably either have your home page set to a search engine or you use a browser toolbar with a search box.
Search has gotten better and better since those early days, and we’ve gotten more and more confident that we can find what we want online. As a result, a shift has taken place. Instead of passively waiting for companies to push information at us, we expect to be able to pull it in as needed. Search has become the interface to the Web.
Think of it as the just-in-time concept applied to the world’s information.
In response to this instant availability, we have found ourselves in a new paradigm. We no longer need to struggle to keep abreast of breaking news and events in a wide variety of fields. We can rely on well-developed search skills and the ever-growing array of general and specialized search tools to find information we need when we need it.
Instead of taking information as it comes, we are now intent-driven; we actively seek information that serves our needs from moment to moment.
This trend has given rise to a new business model: serving intent-driven users by providing easy and organized access to information and data that may come from a variety of sources. Once someone has found one piece of content via search, he or she can browse through related content that’s been packaged in a way that adds value.
It is this business model that D&B, one of the world’s largest providers of business information, purchased when it announced its acquisition of AllBusiness.com today (read more details of the sale). By marrying AllBusiness’s vast library of articles, videos, and podcasts with D&B’s comprehensive company and industry research, “this acquisition creates one of the largest audiences of intent-driven business decision makers on the Web,” says Kathy Yates, CEO of AllBusiness.com.
In a 2005 article for the McKinsey Quarterly, John Seely Brown and John Hagel discussed how information pull was changing mass media. “New media distribution businesses are breaking down the traditional channels’ shelf space constraints, radically expanding the range of content available, and providing robust tools to help users search for it,” they wrote. Amazon.com and Netflix, for example, may appear to be conventional online retailers, but their true business is providing a single access point for a broad assortment of media, they explained.
Instead of providing a magazine-style, single front door for visitors, this new breed of publisher offers multiple entry points to a network of integrated multimedia content.
As intent-driven users scour the Web for information they need at that moment, publishers have a new opportunity to expand their traditional roles. If they can apply their specialized understanding of content and develop systems that dynamically package it to suit the searcher, they can help redefine media in this constantly shifting information landscape.